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Japan will oppose South Sudan arms embargo, government source says

Kyodo

Japan will oppose a U.S.-backed draft U.N. Security Council resolution to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, government sources said Wednesday.

Japan is apparently concerned that if the council adopts the resolution, South Sudan will retaliate against U.N. representatives on the ground, including peacekeepers like Ground Self-Defense Force members from Japan, a diplomat close to the negotiations said.

Tokyo’s stance comes despite the United States’ push for Japan, currently a nonpermanent member of the 15-state U.N. Security Council, to back the resolution to help it reach the minimum threshold of nine votes needed for passage, as the U.S. apparently needs the backing of one more country, other sources close to the negotiations said.

Japan opposition to a U.S.-backed resolution would be an exceptionally rare case.

Drafted by the U.S., the resolution would have member states take “necessary measures” to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms into South Sudan for one year. The South Sudanese government opposes the plan.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power criticized Tokyo’s apparent reluctance to support the draft.

“The arms embargo is a tool not only for protecting the people of South Sudan … It is also a tool for protecting peacekeepers,” she said.

A Japanese government official, speaking to reporters Wednesday, expressed concerns. “The effectiveness of the sanctions is uncertain,” the official said. “The South Sudanese government’s efforts, such as the holding of national dialogue, should not be impeded.”

Another government official said extending “support to local efforts undertaken by the United Nations and the South Sudanese government to improve the situation should be prioritized,” noting that South Sudan decided in November to accept an additional 4,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops amid deteriorating public safety.

Japan’s opposition to the resolution also comes as concerns remain strong among the public that the new duties taken on by the Self-Defense Forces in South Sudan could cause them to be embroiled in military action that could be seen as running counter to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

The security legislation that took effect early this year allows Japanese troops to go to the rescue of U.N. staff and others under attack in response to an urgent request.

Tokyo has deployed a GSDF engineering unit as part of a U.N. mission in South Sudan since 2012, following the formation of the world’s newest country in 2011.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.N. Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres spoke over the phone on Wednesday and exchanged information on South Sudan and North Korea.

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